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April 2, 2014

UGA president speaks at Rotary

TIFTON — University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead, along with several UGA representatives, visited the UGA Tifton Campus Wednesday. He also met with UGA personnel and students at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center and spoke at the Tifton Rotary Club.

Morehead, who became UGA’s 22nd president July 1, 2013 and is a native of Lakeland, Fla., told the Rotarians that it was a great honor for him to be back in Tifton and at their meeting. Among others who he thanked, he expressed appreciation to Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College President David Bridges for the great working relationship between their two institutions.

Morehead then gave a brief update on UGA. He said they have had more than 21,000 applications this year, which is a new record for the university. He noted they enrolled this past fall the best class in the history of UGA.

“Given the quality and the size of this year’s application pool, we believe that we will once again have some very capable students coming to UGA,” he said, adding that a few days ago they were privileged to have two more Goldwater scholars selected. He said this is a very prestigious student scholarship that goes to the very best students who are majoring in science, mathematics and engineering.

“That’s what our university is all about — bringing the best and brightest students to the university and making sure that they have a quality education,” Morehead said.

He said UGA returns this year to the top 20 ranking of public research universities in the U.S. News & World Report. The university also moved up from No. 15 to No. 10 on Kiplinger’s Best Values in College Education list.

“That’s a list that I think is one to be very proud of being on, because it’s the one that balances the quality of your institution vs. the cost of your institution. Anytime you’re moving up on that list, it tells you that you’re doing something well,” he said.

He added that The Washington Monthly put UGA at No. 7 on their Best Bang for the Buck in their national ranking of universities. He said they were delighted that Gov. Nathan Deal included in his budget recommendation funding for a new Science Learning Center at UGA, which will be located near Stegeman Coliseum. Funding for that building was passed by the General Assembly.

“That $44.7 million, 122,500 square-foot facility is going to give us the chance now to provide very modern, efficient and forward-looking teaching and instructional space for our science students at the university,” Morehead said.

He said there will be 33 teaching labs and several classrooms. They’re hoping it will open by the summer of 2016. He said the General Assembly also approved funding for them to renovate one of their historic buildings, Baldwin Hall, which is home to their School of Public and International Affairs.

In addition, he said the General Assembly approved a $11.5 million project for the design and construction of turfgrass facilities that will continue to drive that part of their research enterprise forward into the future. He said he thinks this year may be the best year that UGA has seen in a very long time from the General Assembly. He thanked Deal and members of the General Assembly for their support and cooperation.

Morehead said they’re very close to finishing their new Veterinary Medical Learning Center, which they hope to open by early next year. He said they have renovations underway on their dining facility, and the first phase of the new Terry Business Learning Community is underway as well.

Morehead thanked the Rotarians for what they do and what they stand for, giving back and serving their community.

“Our university has a singular and important obligation to the people of this state — to serve this state; to make this state a better state to live in, to work in; and to build this state in a way that it shines as an example of how public education, particularly public higher education, can help drive the development of a state and move it forward,” he said, noting that’s what they made a primary focus during his first year as president of UGA.

Morehead also spoke about the importance of agriculture in Georgia and the comments farmers made to him about how research at UGA made a difference in the work that they do. He said one of his first acts as president of UGA was to establish an Economic Development Office. He said although it’s a small office, they believe it’s having a significant impact. The purpose of this office is to make sure that they have one person at UGA where everyone can go to for help with their business. UGA was recently named one of the 16 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities in America.

“We want to see more of our faculty involved in the work that’s important to the future of this state,” Morehead said.

He later commented, “I’m absolutely convinced that as long as we remain focused on the academic core of our institution, teaching our students, supporting our research enterprise and serving the people of this state that we’re going to be on the right track and that UGA is going to continue to move forward in the future.”

To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.

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